“A relationship movie with a female protagonist is absolutely rare…” hmv.com talks to Miss You Already director Catherine Hardwicke
There is a beautiful scene in Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke’s new film Miss You Already where best friends Jess (Drew Barrymore) and Millie (Toni Collette) escape the latter’s glamourous London birthday bash to pile into a taxi and drive into the English countryside. Their crazy road trip takes them to the heath wherein their favourite novel, Wuthering Heights, is set, and there they dance in the taxi headlights to R.E.M.’s 'Losing My Religion.'
The scene, inspired by a trip Emily Brontë fan Hardwicke once took, is the heart of a movie that starts out like a light romantic comedy but soon reveals a heavier, more dramatic side when the light-hearted Millie is diagnosed with cancer and the childless Jess becomes pregnant. That juxtaposition of life and death tests their friendship.
As Miss You Already comes to DVD, hmv.com sat down with Hardwicke during last year's Toronto International Film Festival to discuss that scene, working with Collette and Barrymore, and female friendship movies that are “absolutely” rare.
What was your initial reaction to the script?
“I loved it, and I felt this very human condition situation, this roller coaster thing. I added a few things when I joined the film. I wanted it to be a bit less sentimental; it had a little bit more crying and all that. And I wanted it to have as much humour as possible, which I love.
“But I also added that trip to the moors because I had done that trip myself. I wanted to see where Heathcliff [roamed] and all that. And I just thought it was kind of exciting that they would do some kind of crazy-ass road trip; a bucket list kind of thing.”
Did you suggest using R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion?"
“We were lucky because Toni is good friends with [R.E.M. singer] Michael Stipe. And this is a low-budget movie, and we wouldn’t have been able to afford that song in a million years. They don’t even give that song to movies at all; they hardly license it ever.
“And we couldn’t afford any song, and I went in there and told Toni it was going to be a lullaby. ‘Hush, little baby, don’t say a word. Momma’s going to buy you a mocking bird.’ That’s what you’re going to sing in the car.’ And she was like, ‘We’re not going to sing that!’ And I was like, ‘We can’t afford anything else.’ So she texted Michael. Twenty minutes later he said, ‘You can have ‘Losing My Religion.’ I almost fell over because it hasn’t been used in a long time. But it had so much resonance, don’t you think? The way they were singing it, the way Toni looks in that scene.”
I was worried initially that the film would be a typical romantic comedy but it isn’t.
“Obviously it’s a very intense, emotional subject that has a lot of resonance with most people. Almost everyone has been through this with a friend or a relative or somebody. I went through this with many friends, with my dad. I appreciated that my dad was just cracking jokes all the time; chemo this, that and the other.
“And I thought when I read the script that Morwenna [Banks] wrote - she’s a comedian - I love the fact that she’s got that humour zinging in there. And these two characters are not just weighted down but they’re fighting back with humour and grace.”
Did Drew and Toni rehearse or hang out much prior to the shoot?
“We had one week with Drew. Toni came to London a little bit earlier, but she only had that week to give us because she had just had a little baby and everything. And with every minute of that week I scripted out their little bonding activities and ‘we’ll work on this scene and this little lunch, this little photoshoot.’ But, really, in the first five or 10 minutes they started just hitting it off and falling in love with each other and finishing each other’s sentences and cracking jokes. I got pretty lucky.”
And of course they’re professional actors…
“But you can’t necessarily fake that. What they did is not fake. They were just joking, finishing each other’s sentences. At the end of it they went on a trip together. They moved in with each other for a little while. No, they went beyond… It wasn’t faking.”
Jacqueline Bisset plays Toni’s mother. Thank you for bringing her back.
“Isn’t she hot? (laughs) Jacqueline is super cool. She is very detail-oriented. She loves to really understand the backstory of her character. She even asked me: ‘OK, do you think my mother prepared my meals for me?’ I was like, ‘Damn. You are diggin’ deep.’ She wants to know, ‘What kind of mother am I? And what kind of mother is this mother? What is wrong with their relationship? How can she fix it?’ She was really cool. Plus she’s so stylish. We got to go to the stores in London, help her figure out her whole wardrobe. She’s really sharp and fun.”
Your male characters – Dominic Cooper and Paddy Considine as the husbands – are surprisingly well-rounded for a film which is ostensibly made for a female audience.
“Well, that was important to Morwenna and I both because we both have relationships with men. We love men. I wanted to see characters who were well-rounded men. We see a lot of male characters who are the revenge guys; their daughter gets killed and ‘OK, let’s go out and kill somebody.’ Or you see the man is immature and doesn’t want to grow up.
“We wanted to see real guys who are sexy, interesting, have real lives, do their own thing, they’re brilliant, and they are stand-up guys. They stand up for their women. They care, they are emotional. They’re like really cool guys, aren’t they? I love these guys as role models.”
A loaded question for you: are there enough great female friendship movies?
“Well, we don’t know what they are. Everyone says this will get compared to Beaches. That was made 27 years ago. So apparently there aren’t too many.”
Why is that?
“Number one, the male gaze; it’s been talked about a lot this year. And we know that only four percent of movies released are by female directors. And we know those statistics because there have been so many great studies, like how many female leads that are not, like, an action hero.
“And so a relationship movie with a female protagonist is just absolutely rare. It’s so rare, and it’s so hard for any woman to get to direct. I didn’t know the statistics when I started directing. I guess if I’d known I’d be much more discouraged. Now I feel luckier or something like that. [Speaks breathlessly] ‘I’m one of only four percent!’”